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For Grades K-4 , week of Mar. 25, 2024

1. CHERRY TREE RENOVATION

More than a hundred cherry blossom trees will be cut down in Washington, DC, including one tree that’s become a social media star: Stumpy. The short tree found social media fame during 2020—there’s even a mascot costume version of Stumpy and people have made t-shirts to commemorate the short, stubby tree. It will be one of the trees cut down so the nearby sea wall can be fixed. Right now, the Potomac River floods the area with the cherry blossom trees twice a day, covering pathways and the trees’ roots with brackish water (water that has salt in it, but isn’t as salty as the ocean). City workers will fix the sea wall, so it protects the area from flooding, then plant almost 300 new cherry blossom trees in the fixed area. Write a summary of this story, including at least five facts you learned.

2. BIRD BRAINS

Parrots are some of the smartest birds, which makes them great pets for bird lovers. They can learn to recognize shapes and colors and learn to speak and understand words. They also require a lot of attentions and activities to keep from getting bored. Some parrot owners have started using iPads or other tablets with apps designed for young kids to keep their birds entertained. The parrots use their tongues to interact with the touch screens, inspiring some designers to create apps specifically for birds and their bodies. Researchers collected data about how 20 pet parrots learned and played apps—they touch the screen softer than humans do and usually tap repeatedly instead of just once at a time. If you were going to design an app for parrots to play, what would it look like? How would you catch a bird’s attention? Write a few sentences describing your app or draw a picture and label it with what you chose to include.

3. THE SIMS TAKE THE BIG SCEEN

Have you ever played The Sims? The video game series that first came out in 2000 lets players create characters, from their look to their personality and skills, and control them as they interact with their game environment. Soon, there will be a film version of the games! The producers behind the “Barbie” movie last summer will create the film. Fans have said the movie should be in “simlish,” the gibberish language spoken by characters in the video games. Not much is known about what the plot of the new movie will be yet. Write your own plot synopsis of what you think the new movie could be about.

4. HAPPINESS IN TROUBLE

For the twelfth year, a research company called Gallup released a World Happiness Report, based on surveys of people around the world. This year was the first time that the United States was not in the top 20 happiest countries in the world. It ranked 23rd this year, down from number 15 last year. According to the report, happiness went down across all the age groups that were surveyed in the United States, but it went down the most for young adults. According to the report, the happiest area in the world is Scandinavia, a group of countries in Northern Europe. It’s made up of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, which were all in the top ten happiest countries on the list. What do you think makes one country’s people happier than another? List at least five reasons why someone might report they’re happy with their lives and five reasons why someone might say they’re not, based on where they live.

5. FESTIVAL OF COLORS

On Monday, March 25, people in India celebrated Holi, the Festival of Colors. It’s a holiday in the Hindu religion, which about 80 percent of the people in India follow. In the early morning on the day of the festival, people cover each other in lots of colorful powder. It’s a celebration of the beginning of spring and the power of good over evil. The festival is a two-day event that takes place every year during a full moon in spring. The first night, people light bonfires to burn away negative energy. The next day, the fun begins with people throwing colored powder all over each other in the streets. The colors each have different meanings: Blue is for the Hindu god Krishna, who is pictured with blue skin; green means rebirth and the new beginnings that come with spring; yellow is the color of the spice turmeric, which is sacred in Hinduism; and red is the color of marriage and unity in the religion. While the biggest celebrations of Holi are in India, there are big Holi parties in many major cities in the United States and other countries around the world. Write a summary of what Holi is and who celebrates it, including facts you learned here. Draw a colorful picture to go along with your summary.